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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

9 June 2005

Help to fight Phellinus fungus

The Norfolk Island National Park will run a project to help manage the damaging impact of the fungus Phellinus noxius , the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Greg Hunt said today.

"After receiving advice from local experts, Parks Australia is giving extra funds to the Park to help them in this community effort," Mr Hunt said.

Phellinus is believed to be responsible for the death of many Norfolk Island Pines and other trees throughout the Island.

"I have been advised that there is a pressing need to prevent Phellinus outbreaks in forest remnants, and in significant plantings of Norfolk Pines in the heritage precinct," Mr Hunt said.

" And we need more information to help rangers in the National Park carry out management activities without increasing the risk of Phellinus outbreaks."

The Phellinus fungus spores are produced on dead stumps or logs during long periods of rain. The disease spreads when the roots of a healthy tree contact infected trees or stumps.

"At one time Norfolk Island Forestry were inoculating stumps on the island with special vaccines. This increased the rate of decay of the stump and controlled the spread of the Phellinus .

"The cultures used to be grown at the Norfolk Island hospital, but have not been available since the departure of the staff member responsible.

"One of the project research aims will be to investigate the feasibility of getting an innoculation program going again.

"In addition the project will investigate a range of important questions to help protect the Island's environment.

"For example we need to know whether Phellinus affects any of the listed threatened plant species or Norfolk Island endemic plants. Are there increased risks of spreading disease from cutting new forest tracks or undertaking normal forest management? What's the best way to restrict outbreaks once they occur? What are the key indicators that an outbreak could occur? And how might forest remnants and heritage pines be protected from disease?"

Mr Hunt said the project will also investigate international developments in research on disease management for sub-tropical forests.

Media enquiries:
Fiona Murphy (Mr Hunt's office) 0423 577 045
Katrina Flannery (Norfolk) 0011 6723 22152

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